Updated January 12, 2023Reading Time: 3 minutes
Evolution of Search Behavior
Semantic SEO refers to a question or search phrase that produces meaningful results, even when the results don’t contain an exact match of the words or phrases used. Basically, it means the search algorithm is smart enough to interpret a searcher’s intent (and potentially context of their search) to deliver an answer to their question. Semantic SEO is an important concept especially if you’re creating a long-term White Hat SEO strategy because artificial intelligence in search is evolving beyond “keywords.”
Ethical SEO Techniques Provide Longevity
The SEO world can be volatile, unpredictable, and frustrating. I guess that’s why I love it so much; it stretches my imagination and challenges my skillsets. 2016 was a year of big SEO changes. I anticipate 2017 to be full of updates and massive fluctuations. Google continues to chase and shut down websites that don’t cater to the human audience. When you use ethical techniques — also called White Hat SEO — then you’re simply following Google’s quality guidelines, like:
- Create rich content for users not search engine bots
- Understand how users access your website (e.g., mobile, desktop) and make the experience pleasant/easy
- Don’t use any tactics meant to deceive your users
- Avoid tricks in order to get better visibility in search (rankings)
- Help Google find and understand your pages (technical things like metadata, sitemaps, and schema)
What is Semantic SEO?
The term “semantic SEO” has been around since 2002. I actually did a Google Trend on this search keyword. There were two major spikes in popularity (March 2006 and then again in May 2008). So, it’s not really new terminology. We’re just seeing artificial intelligency in search getting better. Here’s a concise definition offered by Tamas Doszkocs of WebLib:
Semantic search is a search or a question or an action that produces meaningful results, even when the retrieved items contain none of the query terms, or the search involves no query text at all.
Yikes, Moz may consider this a concise definition of “What is Semantic SEO” but you’re probably still scratching your head. I think Mashable’s definition is a bit better:
Semantic search uses artificial intelligence to understand the searcher’s intent and the meaning of the query and not parsing through keywords like a dictionary. When you search now, Google gives you results based solely on the text and the keywords that you put in that search. Essentially, Google gives you its best guess. When you use semantic search, Google will dive into the relationship between those words, how they work together, and attempt to understand what those words mean.
In a nutshell, semantic SEO refers to search results that don’t contain your exact search term. It’s guessing at your intent and delivering things it thinks you are looking for. Here’s an example. I searched for “organic face moisturizer.” The SERP returned great results including “natural moisturizer” even though it wasn’t in my original search.
If you’re hungry for more data about “what is Semantic SEO,” then check out these articles. Warning: they are dry and technical. I purposefully chose reputable sources in the ever-evolving SEO industry:
- Moz – Semantic SEO Questions
- Search Engine Land – How Web Retailers Can Profit with Semantic SEO
- Mashable – How Google’s Semantic Search Will Change SEO
Predictions for More Change
Now with voice-activated search, our search behaviors are changing. We’ll probably see compound search phrases evolve — combining search strings or multi-part search queries — as technology continues to evolve. Another imminent change is Google’s split of its index, emphasizing the mobile version over the desktop version. Websites designed for the mobile experience will appear higher in search than laggards.
The good news is that you don’t need to understand the nitty-gritty of SEO to improve and maintain your organic visibility in search. The key is to consistently deliver quality content that drives readership and inbound links. Focus on the subject matter and how your audience uses/interacts with it. Or, outsource it to an SEO company that can explain this geeky stuff for you in a way that actually helps your business grow and make money on the Web. Otherwise, what’s the point… right?
Now you know the answers to “What is Semantic SEO.” So how will it change (or not) your SEO strategy?